Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well
Is sea salt healthier than table salt?
Recent health claims have made sea salt a popular choice for consumers, despite the similarities in nutritional value between sea salt and table salt.
“Sea salt is very popular right now, but consumers need
to know that both contain sodium and that means both can
raise blood pressure,” said Susan Mills-Gray,
Nutrition/Health specialist with University of Missouri
Sea salt is harvested from seawater through evaporation.
It is available in fine or coarse grain and has a slightly
different taste than table salt because of the different
minerals it contains. Most sea salts don’t contain iodine or
any other additives. However, sea salt does have impurities
like the tiny bits of clay that give gray sea salt its color
or the iron-rich red volcanic clay added to Hawaiian sea
Table salt is typically from rock salt, which is mined
from mineral deposits. It is a fine-grained salt that often
contains added iodine, which is necessary for normal thyroid
function. Most table salts also contain an anti-caking
Since the underground salt deposits that produce most
table salt are the result of evaporating seawater or salty
lakes, the chemistry of the two are very similar. Both rock
salt and sea salt contain sodium chloride, and other
minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium sulfates.
However, when a large body of water evaporates, the
chemicals in it precipitate out in stages — calcium
compounds get deposited first, then sodium, then magnesium
and potassium. Because of this, a rock salt deposit is often
a more pure mass of sodium than what you get by drying out
sea salt. Since rock salt for human consumption is typically
processed to remove grit and other impurities, by the time
it reaches the table it is almost pure sodium. The
additional minerals and impurities in sea salt dilute the
sodium levels slightly.
If you favor foods with fewer additives, you may prefer
sea salt — but there’s no evidence that the additives in
table salt are harmful to your health. Although your body
needs some sodium to function properly, most people eat too
much, which can lead to high blood pressure. No matter what
kind of salt you use, most experts recommend limiting sodium
between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams daily. Based on much
research, experts also believe that 1,200 milligrams or less
a day is best for lowering high blood pressure. One teaspoon
of table salt contains about 2,400 milligrams of sodium, while
one teaspoon of sea salt has about 2,250 milligrams.
“From a cooking perspective the main difference is texture and taste. Table salt is very fine which makes it easy to dissolve. Sea salt is coarser and adds a bit of crunch and flavor difference due to the mineral and impurities content,” said Mills-Gray.
“Sea salt and table have similar nutritional value and basically salt is salt when it comes to increasing chronic disease risk,” she said.
For more information contact your local MU Extension Center or contact Susan Mills-Gray directly at email@example.com.
Sources: Environmental Nutrition, May 2009; NIH: American Heart Association
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009